Expanding the voice of communities in the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area
This article was contributed in July 2019 by John Kamwi, Transboundary Coordinator, IRDNC
The Zambezi Region of Namibia is positioned right at the centre of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA), dividing the area into almost two equal parts. The Zambezi Region therefore plays a pivotal role in the TFCA, providing migration routes for wildlife and creating a framework for connectivity between conservation areas in Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Within the Zambezi Region, IRDNC works with communal conservancies and rural communities to safeguard the existing wildlife corridors which provide connectivity across international boundaries and between state protected areas.
This is done through the formation of Transboundary Natural Resource Management (TBNRM) Forums, creating a platform that gives conservancies and other recognised community-based organisations, rural communities and their traditional leaders a voice on conservation matters at transnational level. IRDNC facilitates the formation of these forums; assembling stakeholder communities to share information, engaging with competent authorities, training community game guards and organising joint patrols and exchange trips among the rural communities of the five countries.
Since 2002 when TBNRM Forums were first conceptualised, four forums have been established within the KAZA Region, signified by signing memorandums of understanding (MOUs) between Namibian conservancies and their neighbouring communities in adjoining countries. The four Forums are:
- Kwandu Conservancy in Namibia & Imusho Ward in Zambia
- Sikunga Conservancy in Namibia & Inyambo Community Trust in Zambia
- Kasika/Impalila Conservancies in Namibia & Sekute Community Trust in Zambia
- Salambala Conservancy in Namibia & Chobe Enclave Community Trust in Botswana.
A further two new forums were established to make the total number of forums to six and these are:
- Kwandu Community Transboundary forum, which includes Imusho in Zambia, KA and Kwandu Conservancy in Namibia and Luiana Luenge communities in Angola.
- KA in Namibia and Tcheku Trust in Botswana’s Okavango Panhandle.
The Forums have achieved great success to date, such as:
- Re-establishing wildlife corridors in Sioma Ngweze National Park (Zambia)
- Installing crocodile fences in Imusho to mitigate human-crocodile conflict (Zambia)
- Conducting two successful game counts in Sioma Ngweze National Park and a further game count in Angola (involving technical support and participants from Namibia, Angola and Zambia)
- Reducing uncontrolled fires (all member states)
- Playing a crucial role in policy harmonisation on closing season of fish.
The TBNRM Forums have been fully endorsed by the five respective KAZA governments and the KAZA Secretariat. Several conservancies are willing to cover the costs of their TBNRM Forums’ vital activities, and ten community game guards (of which four are women) have been employed to combat wildlife crime in the Namibian areas that are not gazetted conservancies. A one week lesson learning and sharing workshop has jointly been conducted by community Game Guards from Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia in Lake Liambezi.
During the past six months, a partnership has been gradually nurtured between the Kyaramacan Residents’ Association (KA) representing the people living in Bwabwata National Park, and the Tcheku Community Trust in Botswana’s Okavango Panhandle, representing the relocated residents of an important wildlife area in northern Botswana.
The KA and Tcheku have agreed to cement their relationship through an agreement that developed and signed early in 2019, and to work together on their most pressing matters, i.e. poaching between the two communities, illegal crossing of residents between the international borders, uncontrolled veld fires and the illegal logging of trees in Bwabwata National Park.
IRDNC plans to continue supporting the TBNRM Forums with planning and implementing their activities, facilitating peer lesson learning exchanges between the forums and their traditional leaders, other community leaders and government agencies, and facilitating further work to promote the adoption of community-based natural resource management practices in neighbouring countries.